Loco. It’s a tiny space that barely seats 24 people at a time. You can’t go without a reservation and upon calling, you’ll be given a one-and-a-half-hour time slot. You’re not allowed to linger beyond your slot because bookings are made accordingly. You’re given a cut off point and oh, when making the reservation, you’re informed that the restaurant only takes payment in cash. Does all that sound tedious? It does and it is. And yet a trip to Loco is well worth the trip to the ATM.
Loco is possibly Karachi’s first tapas bar and the menu touches upon several Latin delights, from Spanish, Argentinian, Peruvian, Brazilian and Mexican. It’s quite an experience because the food comes in small and yet extremely delicious packages, put together by someone with the knowledge and love for food.
In the several visits I made to Loco recently, I decided that there was no point wasting time on the universally popular Patatas Bravas. Yes, it is the staple that everyone tries but trust me, you don’t want to fill up on potatoes, albeit drizzled with a delicious smoky sauce, when you have so much more on the menu to indulge in.
For starters, I would highly recommend you go for the Gambas Al Ajillo, garlicky prawns in a fiery chili oil base. The prawns come with garlic bread, essential to mop up the goodness and I promise, you will need to ask for more bread as you won’t want to waste even an iota of this gravy. Another favourite on the tapas menu would be the Stuffed Mushroom Caps, though I would ask for the option with spinach instead of crab. These mushrooms are loaded with flavor and are a great vegetarian option on the menu. And while you’re on the tapas, especially if you’re in a large group and need to order more, go for the Crispy Seaweed Taco with Yellowfin Tuna. You won’t be disappointed.
Small eaters would be happy just ordering from the tapas menu – we were quite satisfied by the time we finished – so order carefully as the portions suddenly get bigger as you proceed beyond the Ceviches and get to Tacos & More. The Japanese inspired Snapper Ceviche with Wasabi, by the way, was the most ‘shocking’ thing on the menu. ‘Shocking’ because you expect a hint of wasabi whereas you get a sensory explosion in your mouth; the heat exits from your nose.
Over to the main course, if you can manage it, Loco offers tacos, tortillas, grilled items and flat bread pizzas. I would stay clear of the pizzas simply because there are too many better options to indulge in. For safe eaters (and the rare customer that doesn’t eat sea food), the quesadilla is actually quite decent. The Beef Steak Taco, however, is a must have for it’s succulent beef and colourful platter and if you prefer something more sophisticated then skip the tacos and order the Lomo Asado instead. Moving on, another ‘must have’ – for seafood lovers – is the Gambas Al La Plancha. You’ll find yourself staring at three mega tiger prawns, grilled and seared to perfection. I especially liked the caramelized lime that comes on the platter; it adds a twang of sweet bitterness when squeezed over the crispy shell prawns.
If you’ve made your way to this part of the menu, then chances are that you’re already about to explode because you’ve ended up over-ordering and hence over eating. That’s not entirely a bad thing because the desserts at Loco aren’t as impressive as the rest of the menu. On my first trip I ordered the Tres Leche Cake; it reminded me of Mrs Munawar’s Milk Cake, which is infinitely superior. On my second trip I tried the Churros with Hot Chocolate that were passable but not outstanding. I’m allergic to cinnamon so the third option was out. And there are just three desserts on the menu.
By now your time will be up and you’ll be expected to make way for the next reservation. It may be a tad annoying but Loco leaves you so satisfied with its speed, service and sumptuous food that at the end of the meal you don’t mind.
Picture courtesy: @kulsoom82